At first, Kari Cummins wasn’t worried about a skin problem she dismissed as adult acne.
As Metro reports, the 35-year-old mom grew up in California and spent a lot of time in the sun. But when her mother developed a few worrisome skin issues, Cummins was inspired to go to the dermatologist as well.
As Cummings told Metro, she had developed a few bumps on her face, including one particularly stubborn patch on her chin that she thought was a major “blackhead.”
“I have always had clear skin so I did think that the spot was slightly unusual. I assumed it was a blackhead or a weird type of adult acne, as I hadn’t seen anything like that before.”
A trip to the doctor revealed that the bumps and scabs on her face weren’t the harmless acne she thought. They were potentially cancerous growths. She told Metro:
“Thankfully they were non melanoma but I still had to get them surgically removed. The lump on my chin was like an underground blackhead, and when that was removed I couldn’t believe what I had been left with.”
What Cummins was left with was a large and very noticeable hole in her face. Though she thought it was an underground pimple, it was really squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer. As she wrote on Instagram:
This is what it looks like to get skin cancer removed. What looked like a tiny thing on the surface was actually much bigger underneath.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, squamous cell carcinoma is the second-most common form of skin cancer. More than 1 million people are diagnosed with it every year, and by some estimates, 8,800 people die from it annually.
Those with fair skin and regular exposure to the sun are most at risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma. And Cummins had both. She told Metro:
“I have fair skin, and I did use tanning beds in my twenties and early thirties to get a base tan before going on holiday. I wasn’t a frequent user, and only used them occasionally, but I’ve learnt that it doesn’t take much for the UV rays to accelerate the growth of the carcinoma, especially if you have fair skin.
I also grew up by a lake and I spent a lot of time in the sun and I don’t think that helped either.”
The hole left behind after doctors removed the carcimona required 35 stitches to close and left Cummins feeling very self-conscious. Still, she knows she was lucky to have caught the cancer when she did. She told Metro:
“If I hadn’t of had it removed when I did then the chances are it would have grown larger and deeper into the tissue and could have spread.”
Cummins now bears the scar from her surgery and cancer scare. She told Metro that she has turned that scar into a way to warn others about squamous cell carcinoma:
“At first I felt very self-conscious, but now I find it empowering as I can use my experiences to share my story in the hope of urging others that it is so important to look after your skin.”
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the best way to avoid skin cancers is to practice safe sun habits. That includes:
- Staying in the shade — especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Covering up, including wearing a brimmed hat and sunglasses.
- Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily and reapplying every two hours if you are in the sun.
- Avoiding tanning and tanning beds.
- Avoiding sunburn.
- Keeping newborns out of the sun.
In addition, the foundation recommends examining your skin from head to toe once a month and getting an annual skin exam from a doctor.